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Mona Hinamanu ’17 (left) considers Traci Corey, presidential spouse and Women’s Leadership Institute director, one of her most beneficial mentors and role models.

Mona Hinamanu ’17 graduated from Olivet College with a degree in business administration focused in marketing, moved to Chicago, and landed an awesome job in just a few month’s time, crediting the mock interviews she was a part of at OC in helping her confidently do so. Now she’s a client service specialist at RELO Direct, providing dedicated client and transferee support to client service managers – but Mona wasn’t always so sure of her future.

Growing up as the daughter of African immigrants, Mona struggled to fit in. She had a different way of life, her parents spoke another language and the family often struggled to make ends meet. In fact, Mona didn’t think college was in her future, but realized furthering her education could be key to creating a better life for herself. And most importantly, Mona refused to let the poverty cycle continue.

While deciding to pursue a college degree was an easy decision, getting there was not as simple. “I wasn’t sure what type of college I wanted to attend,” Mona admitted. “Big, small, location…nothing. I decided to check out Olivet College, close to my home in Lansing, and when I visited, I could tell the tightknit community was special. Even though I wasn’t sure why at the time, people smiled at me on campus. Quickly, I realized OC was a family and it felt like a great fit for me.”

Mona’s first impression of OC was a glimpse into her entire time as a student. She joked that her friends used to accuse her of trying to join every student club or team because she was so deeply involved on campus. Mona served as president of Nu Gamma Xi, volleyball captain, secretary of the Black Student Union, president of Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association Student Athletic Advisory Committee and is a President’s Leadership Institute fellow. She said that being active with such a diverse set of extracurricular activities also helped her build relationships with a diverse group of friends. Mona added that earning the John W. Porter Community Responsibility Scholarship during her junior year was another transformational point in her college journey, solidifying she had the confidence to Be More and Do Good – and that her efforts were making an impact.

In addition, Mona connected with several female faculty and staff members who have created an everlasting impact on her life, including head women’s volleyball coach Megan Merchant and assistant professor of social science and college archivist Nikki Magie, Ph.D. Coach Merchant exemplified strong and fierce leadership skills, and Dr. Magie instilled an appreciation for female social justice advocates in Mona. Most prominently, presidential spouse Traci Corey, who has since taken on the role as Women’s Leadership Institute director, helped Mona develop into the confident woman she is today.

Mona and Traci connected through their love of volleyball, and Traci quickly took Mona under her wing, seeing her potential to become a leader and drive to succeed. “I truly love Traci,” Mona exclaimed. “She’s always positive and that’s been one of the biggest things I’ve learned from her. Traci just has a great way of influencing others to become better. She also stresses that our actions today will help the next person in our shoes, and I think that’s a great mindset to have when identifying change that needs to be made and taking charge to make that change.”

Mona, front, center, with the 2015-16 President’s Leadership Institute class – many of today’s young leaders.

During Mona’s senior year, she even had the opportunity to work with Traci planning the inaugural Cultivating Women Leaders event, designed to inspire and equip young women to embrace their inner strength and realize their potential as responsible leaders. From the original concept of the event, Mona was all-in, having experienced the need for strong female leaders in her own life. Beyond her personal experiences, Mona noticed a common theme among other female students and friends – growing up, girls know they will not always be treated equally. Young women learn about the glass ceiling and the gender gap in top-level leadership, and most girls even know how much more men are paid on average compared to women, but there’s a lack of resources to educate female students on the ways they can break through these disparities and inequities.

“It was one of the coolest experiences being a part of the planning committee for Cultivating Women Leaders, and it’s amazing to see what it has grown into today,” Mona explained. “I’m really excited to continue being a part of this mission because I think it’s so important for young women to interact with strong female leaders and truly develop an understanding that they can be as successful as them. It really combats the limitations we all have learned so much about.”

At the second annual Cultivating Women Leaders event under the theme Pioneering the future on March 2, Mona will be a part of the Olivet College Alumnae Panel. The panel will be moderated by Sheri Jones, WLNS TV 6 Lansing news anchor, for the second year – and one of Mona’s favorite presenters from the inaugural event. Michigan’s finest women business leaders and OC’s most successful alumnae, like Sheri and Mona, will also present interactive sessions on professional communication skills and network with participants.

Attend CWL on March 2 to learn more about Mona, and register by February 12 to guarantee your spot and receive a free marketing tool. For more information about Olivet College, contact the Office of Admissions at 800.456.7189 or admissions@olivetcollege.edu.

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